What was likely to be a three-day, maybe five-day veto session of the Kansas Legislature got more complicated last week with the Kansas Supreme Court decision that abortion is a right of Kansas women under the state constitution.
That high court decision which pronounces a woman’s decision to have an abortion a right under the state constitution sends the issue back to Shawnee County District Court for consideration of a bill that outlaws a specific procedure used in more than 90 percent of abortions in Kansas.
Nothing changes immediately. The second-trimester abortion procedure specifically outlawed by the bill remains legal until the specifics of that dilation and evacuation procedure are considered by the district court, and then likely challenged at the Court of Appeals level and then likely by the Kansas Supreme Court. That could take a year or so, but that provides time for the Legislature to try to change the state constitution to prohibit nearly all abortions in Kansas.
It’s a hot-button political scrap that may well dominate the planned short veto session of the Legislature, becoming an issue that will cast a shadow over assembling a budget, considering expansion of Medicaid eligibility, possibly a tax bill, and then getting out of town.
It’s still not clear when the Legislature will consider a resolution to allow voters to determine whether abortion will be banned in Kansas after a fetus is detected, but there are already House and Senate resolutions introduced earlier this year that might just get pulled out of a committee for debate in either chamber. That’ll make the veto session longer—count on it—if either the House or Senate gets the measure to the floor for debate.
And, for you political/procedural junkies, each chamber’s resolutions are strongly, near-emotionally written. If one or the other gains the two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate—the governor doesn’t have a role in the process—that public vote would be taken at the November 2020 general election when every House and Senate seat is on the line.
So, the wrap-up session is going to be emotional, and every decision on the abortion issue is going to be dissected by anti-abortion and abortion-rights legislators, and the lobbying groups which support them.
Delay the issue until next session for debate in an election year? Take fast action this session while the issue which smoldered for four years in courthouses has emerged?
Anti-abortion activists may not be sated by leadership assertions that the issue is too complicated to be thoughtfully dealt with in the few days left this session. Abortion-rights activists have apparently won on the Kansas constitutional issue, but the widely used abortion procedure’s battle in court may influence votes, depending on how it is described both in debate to get it on the ballot and the inevitable campaigning on the issue ahead of a statewide referendum.
Oh, and how lawmakers vote to put—or not put—the constitutional issue before voters will be a hot-button campaign issue in their election or reelection bids.
Yes, it gets complicated, this one issue that the Supreme Court has put into debate, with just a few days left in the session.
And, don’t forget those two other issues that the Supreme Court will leave its fingerprints on this year, adequacy of funding for public schools and just who gets to nominate the next judge on the Kansas Court of Appeals to succeed retired judge Patrick McAnany…
All of a sudden, it seems, that black robe gang becomes the focus of the legislative session. It gets complicated when the court and the Legislature interact…
By Martin Hawver
Syndicated by Hawver News Company LLC of Topeka; Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver’s Capitol Report—to learn more about this nonpartisan statewide political news service, visit the website at www.hawvernews.com